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Driving Directions Cambodia

CAMBODIA, formerly called Kampuchea, is a southeast Asian state bounded by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, and its southern coast lies on the Gulf of Thailand. The country was devastated by its involvement in the Vietnam War (1960-75), followed by the brutal regime of the Khymer Rouge under Pol Pot (1975-79) when it thought that as many as two million people were killed. Since that time, extreme political instability and sporadic fighting have hampered development within the country. Cambodia is largely a low-lying country fringed by modest-sized mountain ranges and upland plateaux in the southwest, north, and east. The Dangrek Mountains form the frontier with Thailand in the northwest. The heart of the country is the Mekong River drains a saucer-shaped basin whose gently rolling alluvial plains. The western part of the basin is occupied by a large lake, the Tónié Sap (Great Lake).

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About three-quarters of Cambodia is covered in tropical forests, and overexploitation of the forests has led to a government ban on exports of timber. Wildlife species include some of the rare large mammals of southeast Asia, such as the tiger, panther, and elephant. In general, Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate. During the rainy season, the Mekong River swells and backs into the Tónié Sap, increasing its size threefold to about 10,400 square kilometers or 4,015 square miles. This seasonal flooding means the area is left with rich silt when the floodwaters recede. Crop production depends entirely on this flooding, but production was badly disrupted during the civil war, and yields remain low.

Rice cultivation accounts for about 80 percent of agricultural land, and the other main crop is rubber, which grows on the eastern plateau. Despite the gradual rebuilding of its infrastructure in the early 1990s, Cambodia remains one of the world’s poorest nations.

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The heart of Cambodia, occupying three-quarters of the country, is the Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong River basin. Located in the center of the country, it consists mostly of plains with elevations generally less than 91 meters (300 feet) above sea level. It is bounded by highlands to the east and northeast and by the Cardamom Mountains and Elephant Mountains to the southwest. The mountain ranges that mark the southwestern edge of the central plains are bordered on the Gulf of Thailand by a narrow coastal plain.

Cambodia is bordered on the southwest by the Gulf of Thailand.

Did you know about Cambodia?

Dolphins swim in the waters of the upper Mekong River. Despite increased river traffic, Cambodian customs and environmental activists have protected the estimated eighty dolphins that inhabit the river.

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